Not every player drafted in the first round is going to have the measurables that GM's look for, and Kentucky shooting guard Devin Booker is one of those players. Booker is the youngest player in the draft (18 years old) but he doesn't play like a kid. He has good size for a shooting guard, standing at 6'6, 208 pounds, and he has room to grow. Booker has a short wingspan for a player of his height, and some think he needs to get quicker to succeed defensively in the NBA.
Booker is a decent ball handler, but some still question his ability to create offense for himself. That can be a bit of an overrated problem because smart players know how to use screens and cuts to get open, and most of these great shooters are better off the catch than the dribble. Ray Allen used screens throughout his career and had his ball handling questioned too, but he had a great career. Booker reminds some of Allen, and if he ends up being close to that, he'll be an excellent pro. Booker is not a burner, but he runs smooth and he is very smart about how to take advantage of defenses. He is deadly off the pick and roll because defenders try to cheat and go underneath; Booker makes them pay.
Booker is from Michigan, and lived there until his sophomore year before moving in with his father in Mississippi. Booker attended Moss Point High School and he was a dominant player from his sophomore year to his senior year. Booker averaged 22.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. Booker was such a standout that he was named the South Mississippi Player of the Year by the well-known Sun Herald. Losing in the state playoffs left a bad taste in his mouth, but if he was going to get Moss Point any farther his junior year, he was going to have to take a big load on his shoulders.
Booker did his job as a junior, averaging 29.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game, but he didn't have as good a team around him as the year before and Moss Point once again lost in the playoffs. To add insult to injury, they lost to the same team that ended their season the year before. Booker once again collected postseason accolades, being named the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year and also winning the South Mississippi Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Booker wasn't winning state titles, but he was showing major college programs that he was a legit prospect and could be part of a winner if surrounded by more talent. His senior year scouts really got to see what Booker was made of.
Moss Point played a very difficult schedule, facing some of the best teams across the east, but Booker never had any problems lighting up the scoreboard. Booker averaged 30.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. He also barely turned the ball over, which is impressive when one considers how much he had the ball. There would be no first round exit in the tournament for Moss Point in the playoffs, but once again they came up short, losing in the State Championship game. Booker did all he could; scoring 26 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough. Booker had the right to be disappointed, but he had nothing to hang his head about. After being recruited by just about every top 15 school, Booker decided to attend Kentucky and play for Coach Calipari.
Booker had a predictable start to his college career; inconsistent, but more good than bad. Over the course of the first nine games, Booker was all over the place. He had a three game stretch where he scored 15, 18, and 19, then turns around and scores five, zero, and four. After he got through that rough patch, he started to play well against good competition. In the next five game stretch, Kentucky faced UNC, UCLA, Louisville, Mississippi, and Texas A&M. Booker averaged 14.8 points a game and made a huge difference in these five wins. There were other rough games during the season, but he avoided long stretches like he had to start the year and looked more like the 15 points per game player than the guy who was held scoreless versus Grand Canyon.
Booker finished his one season at Kentucky with decent numbers; 21.5 minutes, 10 points, two rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.4 steals, and one turnover per game. Scouts look at his lack of steals and assists and question if he can do anything but hit threes, but it is important to remember that he was relied upon to shoot because Kentucky was loaded with bigs and didn't have a lot of shooters. With Booker being just 18 (he turns 19 on October 30th) he has a lot of growing to do, physically and mentally. He is going to get better and presumably stronger, so whatever team is patient enough to wait for his growth is going to end up with a player who could help a championship team. It will take time, but he has the skills and body type to become a great player.
The Celtics may be a team that has their eyes on Booker, but they seem to have bigger things in their sites as they try to pull off a megadeal to land a player like Demarcus Cousins or pull off a steal in free agency with either LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love. If Boston does stay at 16 and they know they have a shot at one the three aforementioned bigs, they may go ahead and select Booker because they know what a shooter with his ability can bring to a playoff team. Whatever team ends up with Booker is going to land maybe the best pure shooter in the draft, and if there is one thing great shooters do, it's have long careers in the NBA.